Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thick As A Brick

A few thoughts on Mitt's speech.

Mitt brought up his father, former governor and Republican candidate for president, George Romney.   Papa Romney was most famous for his principled stand against Goldwater/Miller extremism.  Mitt's political career has been, like his father's, one of moderation, but he has shown a lack of principal in embracing Tea Party extremism.

Would someone please tell anti-government Repugs to stop praising the Apollo program and the greatest generation.  The Apollo program was one of the biggest government programs in history.  The greatest generation was the generation of Franklin Roosevelt and big, really big, government.

The Republican party is not the party of small business.  It's the party of transnational corporations and big finance.  Someone opening a store has more to worry about from financial markets and Walmart than they do from government.  Mr. Bain isn't likely to regulate big banks, or enforce anti-trust law.  Given the power by congress, President Obama might.  A good reason to vote Democratic in congressional races.

Mittens wasn't a business man, he was an investor.  Big difference.

Is Romney a nice guy or a bully?  It's possible to be both.  The general public might prefer a nice guy but the Repug base likes a kick ass bully.  While the elephants are criticizing the Obama campaign for fighting dirty, O has nothing on the Romney super pacs.

Maybe, just maybe, Mitt could overcome his character defects, but not if he continues with stiff performances like we saw tonight.


I admire Clint Eastwood the film director.  I think he has made some of the best film of the past several decades.  I admire Clint Eastwood the actor.  I'm looking forward to seeing his new film, Trouble With the Curve, and would be quite happy if he were to finally win a much deserved acting Academy Award to go with his directing Oscars.  I do background work in the movies and spent some time on the set of Million Dollar Baby and found him to be a gracious and thoughtful person.

But his performance at the Republican National Convention was just sad and strange.  The interview with the empty chair, standing in for President Obama, full of  sarcasm and at lest two allusions to an obscenity was beneath him.  One of Eastwood's strengths as an actor and director is an eye to a good script.  I don't know who wrote Clint's convention words, but he doesn't have a future in Hollywood.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Repug Convention Night 1.5

I've been watching the Repug convention on PBS (Slated to be defunded by a Romney administration.) and I've got a few  quick thoughts.

Ann Romney gave a great speech.  It was one of the best arguments for big government  I've ever heard.  She also painted her husband as a big government activist.  To bad Mittens isn't a Democrat.  It would have really put him in a good light.

Why didn't Chris Christie talk about Mitt?  I know he managed to squeeze in a bit about the hair piece towards the end, but mostly it was about what a wonderful guy Chris Christie is.  Talk about ego.  Too, he brought in the whole greatest generation thing.  Shouldn't someone tell the Repugs that the greatest generation was the ultimate big government generation.  The WPA, the CCC, the arsenal of democracy.  And of course the G.I. Bill that sent Chris's dad to Rutgers.  Once again we have Franklin Roosevelt to thank for the American century.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Mr. Shrimshock

When I heard Missouri representative Todd Akin's remarks about legitimate rape and a woman's magical ability to shut down pregnancy, my first thought was of my junior high school gym and boy's health teacher, Mr. Shrimshock.

When we were in the eighth grade, we had the lecture.  It was about mid year, we all filed into class,  Mr. Shrimshock pulled down the door blind, handed us a brochure and told us to read it and keep our mouths shut.  As I remember it, the pamphlet was three or four pages long, it had a couple of not very well executed illustrations, and gave a very brief explanation about sperm, eggs and pregnancy.   After we were done reading Mr. S gave us a brief talk.

Women, he told us, would only have sex with us so they could get pregnant, force us into marriage and bind us to a lifetime of labor so that they could stay home, watch soaps, and eat chocolate.  And if that was all that happened to us we would be lucky, since women were all filthy and would give us a disease that would make our penises fall off.  Even at thirteen, I knew that Mr. Shrimshock was a sick man who hated women.

Since Todd Akin delivered his opinion on legitimate rape, I've heard a lot about the Republican war on women.  I think that's wrong.  I think it's a conservative, fundamentalist Christian war on secular values.  The Christian right has become very quick to label disagreement with it's agenda as a war on religion.  If we think a woman has a right to choose, that we all should have access to contraception, if we believe in gay rights or that organized prayer has no place in a public school the Christian conservatives start in on how we are trying to trample on their religious values.  I don't see it that way.  I would never tell a fundamentalist woman that she should have an abortion, or use an IUD.  I would never tell a conservative Christian that he or she should    associate with gays or not pray when ever they feel the need.  But the right wing fundamentalist would gladly take away my right to live a life apart from religion.

I think those of on the left feel very uncomfortable standing up to the religious.  Our belief  in tolerance is so strong that we shrink from fighting back against those on the religious right who have no tolerance for any religious beliefs different from theirs.  I'm an atheist, and even I have trouble with push back.  But if we don't get a back bone and start telling the fundamentalist crowd to keep their belief system out of government, someday we'll wake up to an American Taliban, and that won't be a pleasant world.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Robes of Office

I was up late last night (Reading a book, I can't afford a social life) so I was still in bed this morning when the weekly Republican radio address came on.  I'd say I couldn't believe what I heard, but there's not much the Repugs can say or do that would shock me anymore.  Dear old Rand Paul, Senator from Tennessee, asked if we wanted to swap out our constitution for South Africa's.  Come on Repugs.  There must be a subtler method to remind us that President Obama is black.  Perhaps they could talk about the dusky sunset, no that's not it.  The tribal, that doesn't work either.  Oh hell, just be honest, break out the elephant embroidered robes and burn a cross or two.

Was Rand Paul named for this years co Vice Presidential nominee Ayn Rand?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Victory For Working Women

In 2002, Martha Burk of The National Council Of Women's Organizations began urging Augusta National Golf Club, site of The Master's Tournament,  to admit women members.  This week, Augusta proffered membership invitations to former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and businesswoman Darla Moore.  Both women have accepted membership.  In a short interview on the PBS News Hour, Burk proclaimed it a victory for working women.

Really?  A victory for working women would be a unionized work force.  I'm sure there must be a few women employees at Augusta.  A victory for them would be higher wages and a union to stand up for their rights.  A victory for working women would be an equal pay for equal work law, and mandatory paid maternity leave.  

Hey, if the one percent are going to have their own little club house, then why not admit the dress wearing elite.  But let's not fool ourselves.  A victory for the new American oligarchy is not a victory for working women, working men, or the growing number of working children.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Outrage In Chains

The Repugs are outraged at recent comments by Vice President Joe Biden.  Poor Joe.  He does have a habit of stirring the Republican bouillabaisse.  How dare he suggest that Romney/Ryan/Rand would push an economic agenda that might, just might, further hamper the long term prospects of the middle class all so the very wealthy can have a few more tax breaks.  And a slavery analogy to boot.  Bad Joe, Bad!

Just for the hell of it, let's turn back the clock a bit.  When Bill Clinton was prez, the elephants said he was a cocaine dealer, that he killed Vince Foster, perpetrated a real estate fraud, and while the whole impeachment was technically about lying under oath, let's be honest, it was pretty much an excuse to talk about his sex life.  Clinton remained above the fray.  

Al Gore runs for the top spot, and the Repugs make him out as a pathological liar incapable of telling the truth.  If Gore had said it was sunny at noon, the Rove squad would have claimed an eclipse had blocked out the sun.  Gore took the high ground and didn't fight back.

John Kerry, a decorated war hero was portrayed as a coward who had falsified his military records.  The senator responded with reason and facts.

Barack Obama runs and....let's recount the lies.  He was born In Kenya.  He is a secret Muslim.  He is a socialist.  He wants to impose sharia law on America.  He wants to take  guns away so that the United Nations can take over the country.  That he went on an apology tour,  and blamed the United States for all the ills of the world.  That he wants to drive the cost of energy up to the point that the national economy will fail.  And it goes on and on.

But the pattern seems to be changing.  President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and V.P. Biden are fighting back.  Of course the Repugs are outraged.  Democrats are supposed to be reasoned and too pure for the hard fight of modern politics.   Mittens might actually have to defend himself against Democratic counter attacks. How unexpected.  Democrats willing to meet Republican smears with something other than polite rejoinders.  And by the way, co-nominee Ayn Rand was not born in the United States.  Bad Democrats. Bad!

Sunday, August 12, 2012


I wasn't going to write anything about Gore Vidal, but after some thought....well, what the hell.  why not?

Gore Vidal was one of the more interesting second raters.  I haven't read all his fiction, but I have read the historical novels and Myra Breckinridge.  As Edward Abbey pointed out, it's the democracy of time that decides what is and isn't great writing.  As much as I enjoyed some of Vidal's novels, I don't think any of them stand with the best of his age.  Norman Mailer, Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, Henry Roth, James Jones, and Jack Kerouac all wrote better novels than Gore Vidal.  And as far as his political essays....Let's just say that they had a shelf life.  Of course, I could be wrong about Vidal.  Time will tell.

The Three Rs

In my last post I wrote that Mitt Romney marginalized himself with the choice of Paul Ryan as his running mate.  That he made the election a choice between the vision of Barack Obama and Ryan, rather than between Obama and himself.  I found it telling that when Romney introduced Paul Ryan as his Veep choice, he referred to him as the next President of the United States.  Of course, Mittens walked that back, something  he does quite well.

About twenty five years ago I violated my one romantic rule.  I fell for a woman who didn't share my values.  While a certain compatibility of interests is nice, it's having the same moral compass that's important.  Looking back after all these years, I find it strange to think that the only woman I ever wanted to marry was a conservative Republican.  Trying to understand the way she thought, I read her favorite author, also the favorite author of Paul Ryan.  Hard as it is to believe, I read The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, and Anthem by Ayn Rand.   The third R on this years Repug ticket.

While Rand liked to think of her self as a philosopher and intellectual, I have to say, I didn't see it.  Objectivism, the catch all name that she invented to label her creed, was far from an actual philosophy.  Mostly it was a wet dream for sociopaths, with the occasional rape fantasy thrown in for lurid affect.  Far from rejecting authoritarianism and embracing individual freedom, as the Randites suppose, she merely argued for an authoritarianism of the rich and powerful rather than the Soviet model of her native Russia.

I think one of the things that Rand understood, and that Paul Ryan may or may not understand, is that governments and economic systems do not exist in a state of nature; that they are things we create in order to get us to a desired end.  The world that Rand, Ryan, and Romney wish to live in is a harsh and cruel world, where the vast majority of people are ruled by a sociopathic elite of  rich and powerful laissez-faire capitalists, where the sick, the elderly, and the less fortunate are left to fend for themselves.  That's not the world I want to live in.

Paul Ryan, whose father died when he was a teenager, who was supported by government entitlements, joins the long list of those who hate the very system that made their success possible.  Ayn Rand, who signed up for Medicare in the last years of her life, would have been proud.

And worst of all, Ayn Rand wasn't even a very good writer.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Hail Mary

I'm assuming that the Paul Ryan rumors are not some ill conceived feint on the part of Mitt Romney.  I'm assuming that when I wake up tomorrow, the Wisconsin representative will have been named to the Republican ticket as Mitt Romney's running mate.

A long time ago a vice presidential pick was about balance.  If the top of the ticket was from New England, it was a pretty sure bet that the Presidential nominee would be an unknown quantity in California.  Therefore it made sense to put a westerner in the second slot.  And then along came television.  In our age, the Presidential nominee goes on the talk show circuit, buys ad time, and in the end, not only do we know him, we're sick of the guy.

Now, the choice of a veep is seen as a candidate's first important decision.  John McCain chose Sarah Palin and was viewed as foolish and unreliable for a pick that was so obviously out of her league, and with out the intelligence to grow into the position.

So what does Mitt's choice of Paul Ryan say about him?  What Romney has done is change the whole dynamic of the race.  Starting tomorrow this race will be about the Ryan plan, the cutting of government, getting rid of Medicare as we know it, and eliminating as much of the social safety net as possible.  Mitt Romney has marginalized himself.  He might as well step aside and put Ryan in the top spot on the Republican ticket because know it's about Barack Obama's vision versus Paul Ryan's vision.  Mitt is like the last guy chosen in the NFL draft; Mr. Irrelevant.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Bang Bang, Shoot 'em Up

Let me get this straight.  Jared Lee Loughner strolls into a super market parking lot with his legally acquired arsenal,  opens fire, kills six and wounds thirteen including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.  He gets hauled up before Judge Larry Burns who decides he's too bat shit crazy to stand trail.  So Burns orders Loughner to a federal prison hospital to be forcibly medicated.  A couple of years latter, with his schizophrenia under control, he returns to the Burns court, now cured, so that he can plead guilty and avoid a death sentence.

Okay, I admit it.  I'm not a big time lawyer or a distinguished judge.  But shouldn't the issue be whether or not Loughner was nuts when he pulled the trigger rather than now, after two years of forced treatment?  Ah, but we have to worry about the feelings of the victims.  If feelings are what's important, than perhaps we should just take a poll.  Thumbs up, treatment and release when no longer a danger to society.  Hand held on a level plane, then life in prison and hope the guy doesn't get shived in the shower.  Thumbs down, then a quick visit from the needle.  Ah Rome, what we can learn form your barbaric ways.

Once again, I'm making the unpopular point that the insane should be treated rather than imprisoned for their crimes.  I ran across an interesting study from the U.S. Justice Department in 2006.  (From the Bush Justice Dept, not those socialist hippy Obama guys.)  It seems that over half of  the prison population was suffering from some sort of mental illness a way back in '06.   Forty-five percent in the federal system.  Come on guys, wouldn't it be cheaper to treat people with mental illness before they end up in jail?  Goodness, that might require a national health care system.  Can't have that.

Meanwhile back in the cesspool, also Known as Texas justice.  The lone star state has executed a man with the lofty I.Q. of 61.  Didn't the Supreme Court rule that you can't execute the mentally retarded.  Ah shoot.  He weren't no retard, he was fakin' it.  Remind me to avoid Texas if I can ever afford another vacation.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Free Pussy Riot!

Hooliganism! Religious Hatred!. Proving once again that Russia has made some progress, but not enough, from it's Soviet past, Russian prosecutors are asking for three years in prison for members of Russian punk band, Pussy Riot.  So what did the three girls do?  Goodness gracious great balls of fire, they linked the Russian Orthodox Church to Mad Putz Putin, the semi-elected leader of all the Russias.  Specifically they sang and danced their protest tune in Moscow's Orthodox Cathedral.  Okay, maybe in bad taste.  I've read about, but have never seen the band in action, so I don't have an opinion on that.  But come on, a threat to public safety, implied by hooliganism?  And why shouldn't religion be mocked?  Putz Putin is one sensitive autocrat.  The truth of the matter.

And then there is Westboro Baptist, the completely vile quasi-church that seems obsessed with the nonexistent homosexual threat.  I've got this problem.  I think that we give privileges to those we like, or at least tolerate.  What makes something a right is when we extend those privileges to those we despise.  A veteran's benefit bill just signed into law by President Obama, does a lot of good things for our veterans, but also restricts some of the more disgusting activities of Westboro Baptist.  Now the stupid members of this group have been showing up at funerals of Iraq and Afghanistan war dead claiming that it's the judgement of God on America for tolerating homosexuality.  Stupid, stupid, stupid. But, when is it the place of the government to rule on the stupidity of it's citizens?  When is it the place of the government to decide who or what should be protected from offensive speech?  I like it when the opponents of the sick people of Westboro Baptist show up and block their protests.  Protest, counter protest, that's a good way to handle these things.  But the idea of federal prosecutors showing up and stopping people from saying stupid, vile things....well, what if those same prosecutors decide that the occupy movement is stupid?  Those poor, harassed, billionaires shouldn't have to be subjected to offensive speech.  I'm just saying.  If Westboro Baptist can be limited in it's activities, then it moves the line.  Another group will be the fringe, and it's always easy to go after those of the far edges of debate.  Sooner or latter, no opposition, no idea, no movement will be safe.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Top Ten

Every ten years, Sight & Sound, a British film magazine polls critics and film historians and comes up with a list of the ten best movies of all time. The big news from this decade's poll is that Vertigo has upset perennial winner Citizen Kane to move into the top spot.  Too, Man With a Movie Camera has knocked Potemkin off  the list.

Interesting....Okay, let's start with the obvious point.  Beyond a certain level of quality, we're really dealing with preferences here.  Still, it's fun and I need a break from Mitt Romney, mass shootings, rumors of war, and my own, ongoing financial problems.  So, let's start with the Sight & Sound list.

1. Vertigo (1958) directed by Alfred Hitchcock
2. Citizen Kane  (1941)  directed by Orson Welles
3.  Tokyo Story  (1953)  directed by Yasujiro Ozu
4.  La Regle du jeu (1939) directed by Jean Renoir, and for those who prefer the English translation, Rules of the Game
5.  Sunrise: A Story of Two Humans  (1927)  directed by F.W. Murnau
6.  2001: A Space Odyssey  (1968)  directed by Stanley Kubrick
7.  The Searchers  (1956)  directed by John Ford
8.  Man With a Movie Camera  (1929)  directed by Dziga Vertov
9.  The Passion of Joan of Arc  (1927)  directed by Carl Theodore Dryer
10.  8 1/2  (1963)  directed by Federico Fellini

And now for my top ten.

1.  Sunrise: A Story of Two Humans
2. The Searchers
3.  Pandora's Box  (1929)  directed by G. W. Pabst
4.  Rules of the Game
5.  2001: A Space Odyssey
6.   Titticut Follies  (1967)  directed by Frederick Wiseman
7.  Red River  (1948)  directed by Howard Hawks
8.  Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler  (1922)  directed by Fritz Lang
9.  Pather Panchali  (1955)  directed by Satyijat Ray
10  Casablanca  (1942)  directed by Michael Curtiz

First of all, I set a rule for myself; Only one movie per director.  If not, Fort Apache and They Were Expendable both directed by John Ford could have made the list.  Also, Nosferatu by Murnau, Barry Lyndon and A Clockwork Orange by Kubrick, Grand Illusion by Renoir, and Metropolis and M by Lang could have all made the list.  Too, these are all about preferences, and mine might be different on another day.  Citizen Kane and Veritgo both belong on a top ten, that is if a top ten had twenty or more entries.  Although, I have to confess, I prefer Hitchcock's Notorious to Vertigo.  And then there are Modern Times, City Lights, and The Circus all by Chaplin.  In Titticut Follies, I had one documentary on the list, but why not Grass or Nanook of the North.  And a few shorts like D.W. Griffith's A Corner In Wheat.  And why doesn't Casablanca make these lists?  Snob factor I suspect, and I'm not exactly snobbish.  And a final confession, with the exception of Tokyo Story, I've seen every movie on the Sight & Sound list and I don't have a problem with any of the films.  They're all great movies and anyone would be foolish not to get the DVD and take a look.

One last thing.  I am a huge movie buff.  I know a lot of other movie buffs.  Most of us are under employed, perpetually broke with too much time on our hands.  A few years ago, some of us decided that we were going to start great movie list blogs.  The idea was that we could go on line and check each others tastes.  To put it mildly, most of us got bored with the chore after awhile and let it slide.  My list is still on line at  Who knows.  If I start getting visits, I might go back and add some more movies.